Since my mother passed three years ago my Thanksgivings are completely different. Our Thanksgivings are so different. I’ve always cooked during this time and I enjoy it. My emotions range from being absolutely grateful yet missing her and my siblings tremendously to wondering what to do. Overwhelming. How do you start new family traditions when the Center, our Nucleus has transitioned?
Family is everything. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I get to see all my Family—well Daddy’s side. My aunties, my cousins, my nieces and nephews, new additions to the Family. My family is huge and I love that. I travel from Charlotte to Waxhaw. My oldest lives in Virginia and his girl is from Virginia as well. In October I asked could we spend Thanksgiving with her family and the answer was yes. I wanted a change of scenery, to do something different. A week before Thanksgiving Damien calls to say, “We are coming there.” Me: “So I have to cook?” Damien, sarcastic as usual: “Well, yeah.”
The morning of: I am up early cooking. Damien is as well. He doesn’t sleep in anymore. He comes in the kitchen, “What’s ready now? What can I eat now?” Me: “Turkey necks and rice but who eats that as breakfast, this early?” Well, Damien does. Later, I ask him to taste test my gumbo, “That’s good. Damn, that’s good.”
Damien has to return to Virginia Friday so our time together is rushed. Seamlessly, all falls into place without me having to organize anything. We will stop in Waxhaw, two of his buddies from college will join us. Isn’t that awesome, that his college friends want to be with his side of the family? The crazy, loveable, country, ghetto, thuggin, I-love-God-but-will-cuss-and-or-cut-you, we-all-gone-eat (neighbors and strangers too), most Black family in all the world. I am so proud to be a Tillman.
We drive the long way into Waxhaw. New developments that we haven’t seen. The town is beautiful with Autumn leaves, the colors are magnificent. The countryside, the woods bring back so many memories. I greet my cousin “B”, who looks nothing like 61 years of age. She hugs and kisses me, “Look at you short and sexy. Keep it up.” My other cousin Sharon is just beaming with a beautiful joy and has been for the past year or so. She will not tell me her secret. She is absolutely gorgeous. Then there is my cousin Vince Edward and we argue-love as usual. He’s older than 50. He says he isn’t. I say he is. Then there is my Auntie, the matriarch, head full of gray and silver……she fusses. I smile. I listen. I tell her my baby is going to have a baby and she smiles so, she laughs as if this is the greatest thing in all the world. I tear up because I see my Daddy in her smile. I remember how important family was/is to him. No matter what went on in my life I know I was loved…am loved.
My family….my Damien and Darius have girlfriends, long-term girlfriends. There hasn’t been any others brought around for me to meet except these two, JaNee` and Dominque. I reflect on how their girlfriends are becoming more like daughters than friends. We have dinner at my place, Damien’s circle and my children. All is well. The laughter, the conversation and their camaraderie made my heart smile. The one from Delaware hasn’t ever had nor heard of turkey necks before and condemns us as country bumpkins before he devours them.
My family….when Dominique bites into my collard greens, closes her eyes and sighs w/ deliciousness. She says, “This is so nasty.” We laugh. She is womb-ing my first grandchild and again my heart smiles. I remember how I would only eat my Momma’s collard greens. She would give me my very own dish to take home. Domi has the most peculiar taste buds and I know her pregnancy has warped everything. There is still a great debate about the title of my new role. I’m not ready for the title “Grandma” because my mother was Grandma. (Doesn’t feel right, lol.)
I like Grammy— like the Grammy awards. My children roll their eyes at this idea. Everyone else is called Nana, Mimi, Glam-Ma or Me Maw. I don’t like Glam-Ma either. Decisions, decisions. (huge smile)
At one point I try to exit the room to escape the heaviness of the season, missing my parents, our time together and JaNee` says: “Next year at this time you will have the pitter patter of little feet, a baby crawling reaching for you. Expect big things next year. Different, new. Big.” I smile, realizing that she is learning me. She won’t let me wallow, I step back in the room and tell her, “You are right.” We talk some more.
My roots, my family, my children and now my children’s children.
My Thanksgiving. My Life!
Tearfully and amazingly grateful,
P.S. Dominique returned the next day for more collard greens.